When Anika M.'s baby hit the toddler stage he suddenly became a picky eater. “I'm getting very frustrated,” she says. “My son ate very well up until around 14 months old; he would eat all fruits and veggies, cereal and yogurt. Now, I’m battling with him to eat anything.”
If you’re in Anika's shoes and have unsuccessfully tried it all — from trying to make eating fun to promising a gooey desert at the end of the meal — you may want to pay attention to the secret of many moms: deception.
Here are five “sneaky techniques” for getting your toddler to eat healthy, as suggested by Karah C. and several other Circle of Moms members who've been through a picky eating phase.
1. Hide in a Wrap
Like rolling a vitamin into a slice of cheese or a peanut butter sandwich, several Circle of Moms wrap “the healthy stuff,” inside egg rolls and other kid-friendly foods. Karah hides healthy food inside egg rolls, which her son loves. "You can buy wonton wrappers at the grocery store and make your own,” she advises. “I started my son with eggs and cheese inside them and then we added veggies later. He liked them because it was portable and fun to eat. Maybe you can start with pizza toppings and call them pizza roll-ups. Also, he didn’t realize I was hiding the veggies in the sauce of the pizza."
2. Chop, Chop, and Puree
Expanding on the “hiding” concept, other moms find they can sneak nutrition into their picky toddler’s mouths by pureeing or finely chopping vegetables and fruits and adding them into cookies, spaghetti, and other toddler-friendly foods. Kara B. explains: “I usually puree the veggies and hide them in something else, like a sauce for something that she does like to eat. She doesn't even know they are there. Keep trying different vegetables at every meal.”
Karah C. says that shredded carrots are easy to hide in many foods, and Amy R. sneaks sweet potatoes and carrots into her son’s macaroni and cheese. “At first he didn't like it but now I don't think he knows it’s in there,” she shares.
3. Show That You Think It's Yummy
Many Circle of Moms members find that biting off a piece of the offending veggie and saying how yummy it is can convince their toddlers to eat up. Others pretend they are taking the food away and eating it themselves, which irks their kids into a classic toddler protest: Mine!
Sarah S., who hides veggies in all kinds of foods, also talks up how much she herself loves the foods as she serves them to her son. Menu items include pumpkin or carrots mixed into applesauce and almond butter as a dip for chicken nuggets. “He doesn’t even notice [the healthy additions] it if I start eating first and dipping the foods,” she says. “It’s a great way to get him to finish off meat or the other foods with healthy stuff in them.”
4. Appeal to a Toddler's Sweet Tooth
Another time-tested trick for slipping nutrition into a fussy eater is to appeal to her sweet tooth. Jennifer S. serves up flavored nutrient drinks. Anika M. and Erin S. both make fruit smoothies and popsicles, mixing in veggies. Stacey C. sneaks veggies into brownies. “The kids have no idea,” she shares.
5. Eat with Friends
Circle of Moms member Skye takes advantage of the fact that toddlers love to mimic their peers to get her son to eat healthy foods he normally shies away from. “If you can arrange a play date, I found [that] serving something new at snack time was a surefire way to get something new near my son's mouth. I spread out a blanket on the floor and served up bite-sized pieces, buffet style, on little plastic saucer-sized plates (like a toy tea set, for example). The change in venue was less intimidating for him and watching a friend munch down on something gave him the courage to try something new.”
A Fall Back Plan: Vitamins
When toddlers are refusing to eat anything healthy, many moms supplement their diets with vitamins. “My three-year-old won’t eat anything but hot dogs, chicken nuggets and pizza, and even then it is a fight,” says Monica Y. Rather than force the issue with her son, she simply goes with her doctor's advice, which is to give him vitamins.
What's your secret for getting a toddler to eat?
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